Photo credit: KXAN Austin
By Joan Hoch
In late April, the family of Asher Watsky announced they had filed a lawsuit against former Williamson County sheriff Robert Chody as well as Commander Steve Deaton and former Lt. Mark Luera for their involvement in staging a SWAT raid on Watsky’s house in order to film an episode of the reality television show Live PD.
On May 2, 2019, Watsky appeared in court for a routine pretrial appearance, at which time Williamson County sheriff’s deputies had every opportunity to arrest him on an outstanding warrant. Instead, just three and a half hours later, SWAT detonated a flash grenade before breaking down both the back and front doors of Watsky’s father’s home with battering rams. Five SWAT officers and a German shepherd in a bulletproof vest entered the home, and Watsky was slammed against a wall before being placed under arrest. Deputies illegally ransacked the home, operating without a search warrant and causing over $5,000 of damage.
The raid and subsequent arrest were followed by a film crew for Live PD, a since-cancelled reality show that followed and live-broadcasted police officers on patrol. The lawsuit claims that Chody purposely hid the outstanding warrant from the judge in order to avoid having Watsky arrested in court and stage the SWAT raid for television.
Williamson County district attorney Shawn Dick says that sheriff’s officials acknowledged removing the warrant from the system that day so that no one would see it. The lawsuit states that this is just one example of “Sheriff Chody’s policy of reckless indifference and custom to orchestrate Big Fish ‘Live PD’ events to justify escalating encounters for drama and entertainment purposes.”
Chody and the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office made the news multiple times last year when it came to light that Chody had hidden evidence connected to the murder of Javier Ambler, an unarmed Black man with congestive heart failure who begged for help as he was tased to death by deputies James Johnson and Zach Camden, also in May of 2019. The murder occurred following a car chase that officers pursued in order to cater to Live PD’s cameras. Live PD was complicit in the police cover-up of Javier’s murder and destroyed their footage. Chody encouraged brutality, going so far as to reward deputies with steakhouse gift cards for “good use of force.”
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